Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.
As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

Immigrants pump billions into Washington's economy, report says

Farm in Skagit Valley, WA
Flickr Photo/liquid crash (CC BY-SA-2.0)/
Farm in Skagit Valley, Washington state, a magnet for many farmworkers.

As the Trump administration rolls out new rules on immigration enforcement this week, a bipartisan coalition of business leaders and mayors has launched a new data project that highlights the economic impact of immigrants in the United States.

The advocacy group New American Economy, led by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg,  looked at the economic impact of immigrants in all 50 states. The report says immigrants in Washington state earned $30.9 billion in 2014. Of that, $5.7 billion went to federal taxes, and $2.4 billion went to state and local taxes.

"This report makes it very clear that immigrants are making significant contributions to our community," said Rich Stolz, executive director of OneAmerica, an immigrant advocacy organization based in Seattle.

"My hope is policy makers will cut through the rhetoric, and come up with a just, humane immigration system that recognizes the value that immigrants bring," Stolz said.

Steven Camarota is director of research for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, which supports tighter controls on immigration.

"There's no question the U.S. economy is larger because of immigrants," Camarota said. "But current policy creates winners and losers. The biggest winners are immigrants themselves, and the owners of capital. The losers are the least educated and poorest Americans who face the most competition."

The data for the report came primarily from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Here are some key highlights about Washington state:

  • Washington has the 10th largest immigrant population in the United States. Of the state's residents, 929,505  were born abroad.
  • Self-employed immigrants, totaling 57,780, make up 18 percent of all entrepreneurs in Washington. In 2014, immigrant-owned businesses generated $1.2 billion dollars in income.
  • In 2014, Washington immigrants contributed $815 million to Medicare, and $3 billion to Social Security.
  • Most immigrants in Washington state work in agriculture. Software development is the second most common occupation. The category of housekeeping and cleaning services is third.
  • Washington is home to 251,703 undocumented immigrants. In 2014, they paid $205 million in state and local taxes, and $385 million in federal taxes.
  • Washington immigrants are less likely to have finished high school than the native-born population. But 14 percent of immigrants have a graduate degree, compared with 11.6 percent for the native-born population.

Andy Hurst can be reached at

Year started with KUOW: 2006